Dean Buchan addresses negative perceptions of the competition and answers readers’ questions.
Here is part two of our exclusive Q&A with Euro XIIIs general manager Dean Buchan.
In this section, Buchan addresses outside perceptions of the competition, responds to claims that they are a ‘rebel league’ and answers readers’ questions.
Click here if you missed part one.
Forty20 News: Have you been disappointed by the negative response you have received from some people involved in the game?
Dean Buchan: I’m really happy with the overall response. In the main, it’s been really has been positive and we never imagined we would have more than 50 applicants.
However, in life, everyone has an opinion and so we welcome all opinions – whether they are positive or negative.
Some concerns are valid, from people who really want rugby league to expand, and so to those people I say – we don’t take our responsibility lightly here.
At the same time, we are also aware that most of the negativity from individuals is politically motivated.
For example, we have had to deal with people such as George Stilianos from Greece, who, quite frankly, has been very dishonest with his clubs and has been desperately trying to block them entering to be part of Euro XIIIs.
You’ll have to ask him about his personal motivation as to why he is throwing so many wild accusations around, but I’m starting to see why Greece might have had the problems it has had.
Personally, it seems sad that he would try to rob his clubs of the opportunity to play in a competition like this.
But hey, politics and egos, that’s Rugby League for you!
F20N: What is your present relationship with the RLEF?
DB: Again, because of the politics of certain individuals, people assume that there is some big feud between us and the RLEF. The truth is very different.
There is currently no issue with the RLEF, despite some people’s best efforts. They have informed members that Euro XIIIs is outside of their constitution and we continue to speak to them regarding collaborating.
If we find a way forward, it would be great, and if we don’t then we will proceed without them. We prefer option A, but it’s not just our decision.
We have had extensive conversations and given them a lot of detail, but, to move forward, we need to understand what relationship they are seeking from us.
The main stumbling block at the moment is that they have aspirations of forming their own competition.
Right now, we’re not quite sure what relationship they want from us or if we can move forward together.
If we do – great – and if for some reason we can’t align the visions then that’s life.
To give an example of the potential problem – would Adidas give Nike sensitive information without assurances of a possible working relationship?
It’s hard to imagine that happening and so we have to protect our commercial IP.
To many, it’s taking a long time, but I think that both parties are relaxed at where things are right now, and there is a clear dialogue, so we will see.
F20N: How do you feel about being labelled by some as ‘a rebel league’?
DB: The rebel headline was created by some lazy journalist for a catchy headline for a few likes.
It’s clear we are not rebelling against the RLEF as they have already confirmed that they don’t govern domestic club Rugby League.
The RLEF will continue to be the governing body of national teams and, as head of Spanish Rugby League, I will keep working with them and being governed by them happily without hesitation.
Also, there is no other competition that exists, so we can’t rebel against something that doesn’t exist.
Everyone can see how that many governing bodies around Europe are pro-Euro XIIIs, which I don’t think would happen if this was truly a rebellion, as the slur is intended.
However, we are rebels to the degree that we said that domestic European Rugby League needed something that wasn’t being provided by the powers that be.
We are rebels to the degree that we stood up, created and developed a domestic European tournament outside of the status quo.
In that regard, we could be called rebels and that is a label I am very happy to wear with honour.
F20N: Could Euros XIIIs one day have a working relationship with competitions like Elite One (France) and League 1 (UK)?
DB: Euro XIIIs has always stated and continues to welcome anyone who truly wants to work for the good of Rugby League.
We are at the beginning of our journey and so no one knows exactly what this will become, but, right now, it is extremely important that we walk before we try and run.
We are a development competition and so, if we are approached by the Leagues mentioned, and it makes sense to create a partnership, we will look at each offer on its merits.
F20N: Will clubs be permitted to apply to enter the Challenge Cup?
DB: We don’t govern our clubs outside of their Euro XIIIs commitments and each club in the competition has committed to the Euro XIIIs fixture list for 2021.
I am not sure on the dates of the Challenge Cup, so I can’t really comment on that, but if clubs want to use Euro XIIIs as a stepping stone to the Challenge Cup or League 1, we don’t have any issue with that.
Again, to repeat, we are starting as a development competition and it will take time for us to develop into teams capable of competing against English teams.
Right now, there is a gulf between them and us, but hopefully we can bridge that gap over the coming years.
Reader question: Will the teams be playing friendlies against teams from Euro XIIIs or can they play some against teams from other leagues in their own country?
DB: Each team is free to organise friendlies as they see fit.
We have also helped a couple of teams organise friendlies against teams who missed out on Euro XIIIs in 2021, and we will try to help as many to do so as possible.
We don’t own the teams in the competition, and who they chose to play outside of our competition is their business, as it should be.
Rq: Given the weather patterns in Northern Europe – at times similar to Canada – when do you envisage the season starting and finishing? Or will you be confining it to the more middle and southern regions and excluding the likes of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia etc.?
DB: In 2021 we have a Cup format. Depending on team location, they may opt not to host home games. Where this is the case, in the event that they are drawn at home, any team who has not been approved to host matches will automatically become the away team.
Rq: If things go well, where do you see yourselves in five years? Could the League turn professional some day?
DB: The first goal is to develop the player pool in Europe. This will then strengthen domestic leagues, which in turn increases participation and awareness of Rugby league in Europe.
This is a long-term project and so this won’t suddenly become a European Super league in a couple of years.
The consensus among European clubs and national governing bodies is that is a long way away right now and we tend to share that vision.
Maybe it will take a little less time – or perhaps a little more – but that’s a conversation for much later in the project.
Rq: What are your current links with any existing Rugby League governing bodies?
The links are that each club that has entered has the permission of the governing body that it is affiliated to. As you can see, many have publicly stated their support for Euro XIIIs.
Personally, I am the head of AERL, Orazio is the President of FIRL and Tiziano is the Vice President of FIRL.